When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Homemade Chocolates for Valentine's Day (gluten-free, vegan cashew butter balls)

Call me sentimental, but I actually like Valentine's Day.  I've been hearing various comments this week about it being an overly commercial holiday that some would rather just ignore, but I think it's nice to have a day that reminds us to really think of and appreciate the wonderful people who are dearest to us in our lives. In our little family, we enjoy finding small but special ways to say we love each other on February 14th, and this year, I've got a yummy treat already tucked away to share with Matt, Noah, and Will:  heart shaped boxes of chocolates that I made for them myself.

The combination of chocolate and nut butter is one that makes many people happy, I think!  This recipe for cashew butter balls was inspired by one for peanut better balls by Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows;  I swapped the peanut butter for cashew butter and modified Angela's recipe in a few other ways to suit our family's needs and tastes.  I'm really looking forward to the smiles that these decadent (and healthier than most store-bought) chocolates will bring to my guys' faces later this week!

Cashew Butter Balls

1 500g jar of natural cashew butter
5 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut flour
a pinch of sea salt

2 85g bars of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil

Scrape the contents of the jar of cashew butter into a mixing bowl, and stir it to blend in any oil that has separated.  Add the maple syrup, coconut flour, and sea salt to the cashew butter and mix all ingredients well. The mixture should be firm enough to roll into balls, but not too dry looking.

Roll a spoonful of the mixture in your hands to form a ball that is about one inch in diameter.  Place the ball on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and repeat this process until all of the nut butter mixture is rolled.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil together, stirring often.  Once the chocolate mixture is melted, remove it from the heat immediately, and then coat the cashew butter balls in the chocolate by placing them on a fork one at a time and dipping them into the pot.  Remove any excess chocolate by tapping the fork on the side of the pot, and then carefully place the dipped cashew butter balls back on the baking sheet.

Once all of the nut butter balls are dipped, place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes, or until the chocolate is firm.  Remove the pan from the freezer, and decorate the top of each cashew butter ball by drizzling a little of the leftover melted chocolate across it using a small spoon.  Return the cashew butter balls to the freezer again to firm up the drizzled chocolate.  You can use any remaining melted chocolate up by pouring it into small heart shaped candy molds and placing those in the freezer as well. Serve chocolates at room temperature (if you can wait that long!)

To present these cashew butter balls in a pretty way for Valentine's Day, place each one in a mini paper baking cup with a heart motif, and then fill a heart-shaped tin with them.  (I found some cute tins and paper liners at Bulk Barn.)

I may have sampled a few of these nutty chocolate treats before I packaged up the boys' hearts (I had to make sure they were good, right?), and I can tell you that they are melt-in-your mouth delicious.  I think you could use any kind of natural nut butter in this recipe with great results; you may just need to slightly vary the amount of coconut flour you use to thicken up the dough depending on the consistency of the nut butter you choose. Any way you make them, these homemade chocolates are sure to make your family's Valentine's Day a little sweeter!

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